Lufia & the Fortress of Doom Review

I love (the excellent and eternally awesome) Lufia 2, but Lufia & the Fortress of Doom… hasn’t exactly aged well. It suffers from a number of problems that are so uncommon in the current gaming environment that playing it borders on being a painful experience. There are a few reasons to still play it, of course, but none of those are related to Lufia itself, instead being reasons revolving around great moments in Lufia 2. In its defense, however, it’s still better than the abomination that is Lufia 3.

Okay, so the first thing you’ll notice is the music. I use that term lightly, because what it actually sounds like is someone took an electric piano sample, downsampled it to the point where it was distorted beyond recognition, overdrove that sample to the point where it’s grating and way too loud, pitch shifted it down so that everything sounds flat and off-key, then arranged a soundtrack around it. Imagine taking a power tool to your head. It’s like that, only sustained over a long period of time. This is a game to play with the volume off.

That’s not the only infuriating thing about this game, either. The random battles? They happen way, way, way too often. You’ll walk two or so steps, then boom, random encounter. Two or three more steps, boom, random encounter. Then you’ll walk five or six steps, feel like you lucked out, and right as you count your lucky stars, a random battle hits you, tipping both you and your lucky stars off-balance and sending said stars plunging to earth into a nursing home, killing countless innocents. Did this actually happen? I don’t know, I had a migraine from the battle music and couldn’t focus, but I’m guessing that’s what happened.

Why doesn’t anyone ever send me into the “Tower of Candy and Sexy Women” or someplace nice like that?

An encounter rate that’s too high isn’t an insurmountable obstacle to one’s enjoyment, however, provided that the combat is solid. Thing is, it really isn’t. If there are multiple enemies of different types on the screen and two people attack the same one, both characters will attack that enemy no matter what—even if the first person finished off the enemy. You’ll literally attack the air because your characters are apparently rocking so much Adderall that they’re incapable of shifting their focus onto anything but that one enemy you selected. Other games redirect the attack to another enemy. Not Lufia. It’s stupid, and whoever designed this system should have been told that it wasn’t fun in any way, shape, or form. Then drawn and quartered.

Dungeons are at least better than Lufia 3. While Lufia 3 randomized dungeons, Lufia at least has set ones that you can memorize. They suck and are generic enough to where they might as well be randomly-generated, though. Every tower has areas where you can walk right off the building and go back to the overworld map, which is kind of nice, but probably not very smart from a “building strength” perspective. It’s also possible to accidentally walk off and have to slog through a ton of random battles to get back to where you were. It’s like every design decision for this game was made to revolve around frustration.

Speaking of frustration, let’s talk about quest design. Here’s an actual example from the game: First, you find a smashed bridge that you have to cross, so you have to find an architect. He sends you to fetch one of his workers, which means running to another town, then running back to him. Then he tells you to go to the dungeon with the broken bridge to assess the damage, despite having just been at the friggin’ bridge and having seen the damage already. Then you have to go back to him and report. Finally, he goes to the bridge, you have to follow him, and he tells you to enter the dungeon from another entrance to “be his eyes.” Finally, you exit the dungeon, go back to the correct entrance, and cross the bridge. 95% of the game consists of padding like this, padding that sends you into annoying dungeons with an annoying encounter rate that brings up annoying battle music while you fight annoying enemies with your annoying characters who can’t seem to grasp the concept that you don’t have to attack things that are already dead. Excuse me as my head explodes from rage.

“So everybody, join me in doing the kidnap macarena!”

Okay, now that I’ve listed many of the annoying things about this game, let me just say this: Lufia might be worth playing just to make Lufia 2 a better experience. Despite Lufia 2 being a prequel, all of the annoyances of Lufia & the Fortress of Doom are ultimately worth it if you’re looking for something to flesh out the world a little bit and provide context. The little things you’ll carry with you into the second game aren’t exactly the kinds of things that will blow your mind, but it does make the second game somewhat better.

That being said, it might actually be better to watch someone play through this game on Youtube. I’m not joking—that may actually be the best way to experience this game. Watching a Youtube playthrough with the volume off means that the annoyance isn’t yours, and allows you to pick up on the little plot-related things that make Lufia 2 better without having to actually play this game. Everyone wins.

Here’s what you should do:

Lufia Screenshots: Page 1

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Lufia Screenshots: Page 2

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